Since the 1980s, we've known that the most common cause of a peptic ulcer is actually an infection of H. pylori bacteria
. So why do so many of us still associate ulcers with stress? Here's the deal: Excessive use of OTC painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen—the stress-busters we rely on when we're suffering from tension headaches, tight shoulders or a put-upon, aching back—can also cause ulcers or make them worse, explains Patricia Raymond, MD, a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology
. These NSAIDs can break down the mucous membranes that line the stomach, allowing gastrointestinal acid to splash up and cause burning pain. Raymond adds that alcohol—another popular de-stressing remedy—can exacerbate an existing problem.